RALEIGH, N.C. – The exact motive for the slayings of a North Carolina mother and three of her children may have disappeared with the suicide of the main suspect, but authorities say it could be linked to a heroin distribution ring.
For almost a week, investigators were trying to find a man witnesses said was lurking outside near the victims' home and yanked one of the daughters inside before they were found slain.
After days of poring over notes and taking in tips from the community and some who saw the case on "America's Most Wanted, authorities issued a national bulletin for Chiew Chan Saevang of Wisconsin and his girlfriend, Yer Yang.
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The search ended with a chase on an interstate highway in Utah, where police say Saevang shot and killed Yang before turning the gun on himself.
With no chance to question Saevang in the shooting and stabbing deaths of Lisa Saephan and her three children — 20-year-old Melanie, 18-year-old Pauline and 4-year-old Cody — what exactly happened on March 12 in the quiet subdivision remains a mystery.
"It's like trying to put together a big puzzle," said Coy Reid, chief deputy with North Carolina's Catawba County Sheriff's Office. "They could've finished the rest of the pieces. We still have a lot to tie up and finish in the investigation."
Authorities said that investigation could ultimately end with Saephan's husband facing charges of trafficking drugs. Although he is not implicated in his family's slayings, detectives suggested that Brian Tzeo's involvement in a trafficking ring with the suspects may have been behind the attacks.
"There was some drug distribution that came out of that house," N.C. State Bureau of Investigation spokesman Dave Call said.
"The information we have suggests the father was a drug distributor," Reid said. "He has cooperated with us. And we're not at liberty to talk about that right now. It's an ongoing investigation."
Tzeo hung up when reached by phone.
Authorities said Tzeo would receive opium through the mail from Thailand, convert it to heroin and give it to Yang who lived in Long View, in Catawba County. She would take the heroin to Saevang in Wisconsin, where he would sell it, they said. Saevang had connections to the Schofield, Wis., area, about 130 miles north of Madison.
Investigators would not discuss details about what led Saevang to kill Tzeo's family in the community about 40 miles northwest of Charlotte. They have said Tzeo was at work when his family was killed. Cody was found shot to death at the kitchen table, his fingers still inside his cereal bowl.
Funerals were held Wednesday afternoon for the victims in nearby Newton. Tzeo has said he wants to take his family back to California for burial, but authorities have not said whether they would allow him to leave the state.
Authorities found the victims after a friend of Pauline's called 911, screaming and sobbing as she told the operator Pauline had just been pulled into her home and stabbed by a man. The friend had picked up Pauline for school that morning, but they went back after the friend said she had seen a suspicious man outside the house.
Tzeo has said he and his wife had separated and that he had an affair but they were still living together and trying to work things out.
Yang's criminal history showed convictions for forgery and larceny and several charges related to obtaining property by false pretense. Saevang faced several charges of trafficking in opium in Catawba County over the last six years.